-- Washington attorney Cyrus Mehri, co-author of a report critical of NFL minority hiring practices in filling head coaching and front office positions, said today that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones's pursuit of Bill Parcells may be violating new policies league owners agreed to 10 days ago.
Jones has had two substantive meetings with Parcells about replacing Dave Campo as his team's next coach. Although there is no timetable for a regime change, Jones said today that he would announce his plans for next season "immediately." Campo is scheduled to hold his annual year-end news conference Monday in Dallas. According to published reports, Jones and Parcells have settled many issues involving control of personnel, hiring of assistants and salary, clearing the way for a Parcells hiring, perhaps this week.
"What's happened in Dallas has all the hallmarks of the old hiring practices instead of what the NFL said it was going to do," Mehri said. "[Jones is] flying off to New Jersey and Long Island to meet with Parcells without giving a minority candidate a fair shot. It looks like the old regime, not a new day."
On Dec. 20, a committee on minority hiring headed by Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney announced that all 32 owners had "strongly approved" a plan that would include a substantive interview with one or more minority candidates for any head coaching vacancy, effective immediately. Jones met with Parcells for the first time Dec. 18, two days before the policy was announced.
There also have been reports that former Minnesota Vikings coach Dennis Green, an African-American, has been contacted about the Cowboys job, and, if Parcells changes his mind, would be Jones's next choice. Green, reached at his home in San Diego by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Friday, declined to comment.
"I'm all but certain that when [Jones] met with Parcells on the 18th that he knew the owners would be making a decision on the 19th and 20th," Mehri said. "He was briefed on what the vote was about by the time he was sitting down with Parcells."
After the Cowboys' 20-14 loss to the Washington Redskins today, Jones sidestepped questions about Mehri's comments.
"First of all, I take very seriously the policies that we have in the NFL and anything that I might talk about I would not talk about here right after the ball game," Jones said. "The way I have gone about anything that has to do with hiring or changing the head coach situation, that question, I will wait until over the next couple of days [to answer]."
Mehri, who has been working with attorney Johnnie Cochran on the issue, said he prefers "looking at non-litigation options, but we're also not ruling anything out. . . . We're leaving all our options open. I believe the Rooney Committee acted in good faith. We're looking to see what happens in this hiring cycle. We're fighting to make sure the Rooney plan is carried out in the way it was intended."
Earlier in the day, Mehri released a statement under a headline that said, in part:
"The key to the new NFL hiring policy is for teams to extend comparable interview opportunities to at least one minority candidate. We believe this means inviting final candidates to participate in a serious interview process -- meeting face to face with the owner and other decision makers. Simply talking to a minority candidate on the phone is not comparable."
Hiring Parcells may be complicated by another factor. According to reports on espn.com and CBS Sportsline.com, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have notified Parcells' agent, Jimmy Sexton, that they consider talks with the Cowboys to be tampering, claiming Parcells signed a four-year contract with Tampa Bay last year before deciding not to take the job. The Bucs reportedly contend teams must seek permission to talk with Parcells and that they would be entitled to compensation if Parcells agrees to coach elsewhere. ESPN reported that the NFL would review the matter this week. The contract, signed by Parcells, reportedly was never submitted to the NFL for approval.
Staff writer Gene Wang contributed to this report from Landover.